Basketball Systems, Skills & Drills

Thousand Islands Basketball Clinic, May 9-10, 2003

Angie McLeod, Ottawa Gee Gee’s - Shooting

      balance and footwork

      shooting ‘gadgets’ available, e.g., balls with two hand prints

      toe of dominant foot - no more than about 1.5 inches in front of the other foot, toes pointed

      ‘toes at the target’                             

      hold ball in shooting hand with no guide hand - see the wrinkles in the wrist

      with ball on floor, shooting hand on top, guide hand drags along the floor to the side of the ball, pick it up.

      thumbs form a ‘T’

      extension - reach in cookie jar

      1 second follow through, fingers spread

      one-hand form shooting just in front of the basket, step back

      keep ball in front of face - should be able to watch shooting thumb

      set position - thumb in front of nose

      ‘take game shots at game spots at game speed’


      Mikan drill

      curl drill - 2 lines on the baseline, one on each side of the lane, 4 balls, first player in one line curls in, gets pass from other line, shoots, self-rebounds and passes back to the line the ball came from - receive on inside foot, pivot so other foot comes down in shooting position (recommends inside pivot foot).

      same set-up - curl further out, shot fake, dribble and pull-up

      open pivot - receive ball, forward pivot using inside foot as pivot (reverse pivot - quicker and creates more space, but harder to master and attacking the middle requires a crossover).

      4-line shooting - lines at elbows (with balls) and lane/baseline, bottom players pop out, get pass from passing line out front, pivot and shoot, self rebound, pass to other line and follow

      ‘be a basketball player (low), not a statue (high)’

      ‘Plus 2' free throws - swish is 1 point, otherwise in is 0 points, miss is -1, goal is to get to +2

      50 shots - alternate shooting in pairs, 7 minutes, 5 shots each from 10 different spots, start with right then left hand lay-ups, shoot, self rebound, pass to partner, run and touch top of circle with your foot, get pass from partner etc (combined score out of 100).

      partner shooting - player under basket passes, closes out to block shot.


      80 hoops - 4 lines, one at each elbow, one line at each end has 2 balls, pass to other line for shot, passer goes to shooting line at other end, shooter self rebounds, passes to passing line and goes to the end of that line.

      2 lines at free-throw (FT) line extended facing each other, 1 ball on each side, pass to shooter cutting across FT line for inside pivot and shot, self rebound and pass back where ball came and join that line, passer is next cutter.

      3 player power-ups - 2 players on one wing with ball, 1 on other wing; first player does power-up (lay-up), weak-side wing rebounds, passes and follows to next player, shooter must sprint to 3-point line and in to rebound next shot. Make 15 power-ups, 15 shots, 15 dribble jumpers, switch sides.

      1 on 1 continuous - 3 players, 1 on 1 from wings, D rolls balls to O and closes out, if O scores (1 or 2 dribble max) D stays and rolls ball to other wing, if D makes the stop switch positions, former O rolls ball out to other wing.

      close-out game - 2 lines on lane/baseline, O on each wing at 3-point line, first in line passes to O and closes out, O can shoot 3, take 1 dribble and shoot outside paint for 2 or inside paint for 1, if O gets the rebound she stays on, if D gets rebound she becomes O, player going off goes to other line, first to 11.


      jab step - 6 inch jab (about heel-toe), ball in pocket to protect it, stay low (“long, strong and low”); protect the ball - pivot, swing ball pocket to pocket

      jab series - jab-go, jab-crossover, jab-shot, jab-shot fake-go, shot fake-go, shot fake-crossover, shot fake-jab-shot.

      crossover - ball sweeps through below knees to other pocket, first dribble stays low, once by the defender, cut behind the defender to cut her off

      jab, step back (keep butt low), shoot.

      shot fake - no more than 6 inches, some coach that the ball comes up but not the head (only the eyes) - or a little head bob.

      skipping ropes - great for warm-ups on road trips.

Footwork and balance:

      lean forwards and backwards as far as possible, standing on two feet, then one foot, then close eyes.

      balance on one foot, bend down touch foot with opposite hand.

      step forward diagonally onto one foot, then backwards to the start position

      3 lines - start lying on stomach, get up and sprint to another line.

      compass jumps - clockwise and counter-clockwise circle (don’t return to centre in between jumps).

      fast feet - out to the side with right foot, out with left, in with right, in with left, repeat.

Bob Bain, York Yeomen - Offensive Post Play

      first look should be into the post.

      post players need to work with perimeter players.

Moving to position:

      flash - to the ball from weak-side - use inside arm to knife through the defender

      v-cut - high then low (behind defender), or low then high.

      spin move - flash, reverse pivot, open up going 90 degrees toward ball-side block.

      screening - across for weak side, then flash to high post ball side.

      button hook - from 2 or 3 position, cut to low block, reverse pivot away from baseline to open up.

      face D - face the defender at low post, ball goes into corner on that side, post reverse pivots to seal the defender.

      duck in - balls goes to FT line, low post steps in with outside foot, forward pivots to seal defender.

      circle away - run around defender and back to the ball.

      go and come back - fake towards weak side, come back.

      re-post - ball goes to low post, defence sags, kick ball back out, then back into post.

      post position: make the letter “H”, elbows out, arms bent 90 degrees, wide and stable, butt out, keeps defender away.

      show the passer your numbers (chest)

      get a foot advantage - step over in front of defender.

      put the defender in jail - go to the player, lock her in; sit on the defender’s quads.


      bounce pass on baseline side to low post, catch and chin it, drop step to baseline, power dribble, pump fake and shot.

      turnaround jumper - seal, forward pivot, shoot.

      jump hook - one bounce, two-foot take-off.

      spin - catch, spin, drive past defender (for small quick posts).

      face up - catch, forward pivot, take on the defender.

      Sikma - catch, reverse pivot.

      locator move - catch and chin it, dribble the ball to find the defender, then go opposite.

Mike Hopkins, Syracuse Orangemen - Ball Handling

      everything based on good stance - post, triple-threat, and defence.

      pound dribble (in stance), use guard arm (acts as shock absorber).

      don’t speed up the dribble when under pressure.

      ‘windshield wiper’ - one-hand V dribble out front, from outside one knee to outside the other.

      let them watch the ball when learning.

      dribble one hand around one leg - then increase the number of bounces before going through the leg from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 etc.

      two balls - 25 pound dribbles simultaneously, then staggered; dual windshield wipers; circle leg with one hand, other hand dribbles.

      crossover dribble down the court and back

      one dribble, then through the legs (drop the shoulder, stay low), repeat other way (touch the floor with the other hand as the ball goes through the legs, into a sprinter’s position) - then same thing using behind the back dribble.

      pass from point to wing - reverse pivot, sweep the ball low, drive to the hoop, one dribble only (one-dribble practice - start at the foul line, sweep ball into long first step, one dribble to the basket, work backwards from there).

      drive above the block, not below it.

      get by the defender, then cut behind.

      have to take the right angle to the hoop.

      4 chairs out front - crossover, through the legs, and one-hand-only dribbling, low and tight, finish on the hoop - then dribble two balls, pass one to perimeter player, drive for lay-up with the other.

      attacker goes from centre, one defender above free-throw line can only steal the ball or bump the player as the attacker goes by, other defender plays from under the basket, defenders get a point for a miss, first team to 20.

      1 on 1 - put the shoulder down, drive, get the foul

      change speeds - freeze the defender

      cut out turnovers just by changing speeds.

      was asked to speak about zone offence - forget it, make your players better.

Barry Smith, St. Lawrence College Vikings - Moving without the Ball

      v-cut - as you cut for the ball, sweep your arms up to “break” the defender’s deny arm

      get the ball, sweep it away from where it came, again to “break” the defender’s arms.

      come out faster than you went in.

      L-cut (prefers this) - come up the lane, take a half step inside to fake the defender the wrong way, cut outside

      same across the free-throw line from the weak side, cut to point position.

      basket cut - first step away from the ball, then go the other way (defender - jump to the ball, don’t worry about lob pass, weak-side help).

      screen away - 1 passes to 3, 5 screens 4 - first thing coming off the screen is misdirection; hip to hip; 4 tugs screener to help curl to the basket and open the screener to the ball, cuts off screen high, or curls lows to the basket, or fakes and flares back to the corner (push screen).

      slip the screen - at the last second the screener cuts to the basket for a pass instead of setting the screen (knowing the defender will switch).

      player closest to the line running from basket to basket sets the screen, i.e., away from the centre line.

      back screen (up, e.g., 4 for 2) - wait for screen and read defence (“one thousand and one”), (a) take defender away from ball, cut across top of screen to the ball and into the paint; or (b) push off the screen and flare out.

      one person goes to the basket on every screen (cutter or screener), other person goes to the ball.

      uses a lot of block to block screening (above the block) - cutter takes one step away when he sees the screen coming, if the cutter comes high off the screen, stays high and the screen goes low to the basket; if the cutter goes low, stays lows, and the screen comes high (high is elbow at least - create space).

      screen comes only to middle line.

      if the defenders are going to switch, fake the screen, screener opens to the ball in the paint for pass and shot.

      runs 3-out, 2-in offence.

      quick, athletic kids need proper technique.

Eddie Pomykala, Bishop’s Gaiters - Passing

      most important part of coaching is the relationships

      his team had too many turnovers this year - identified 7 passing fixes

      we forget to teach kids how to play the game (book - “Just Let the Kids Play”)

      too much emphasis on coaching the game

Point to wing pass:

      point guards - take the ball away from where you want to pass it (e.g., dribble left, reverse to pass right).

      keep the dribble alive

      don’t be too right-handed in your offence

      pass with two hands - then you can change your mind (“wipe yourself with one hand, use two hands for everything else”)

      not a bounce pass, send to outside hand

      v-cut - don’t come back to the same spot, create some contact with the defender using your chest, then cut back out.

      L-cut - push inside, then cut outside.

      with entry pass trouble - ball-side post flashes high, (a) wing goes backdoor, (b) point to post pass, (c) post sets upscreen for wing (teach this on the first day).

      listen to your players if they have a better solution - take your ego away.

Wing to post pass:

      if post is fronted from the top, wing dribbles low to make bounce pass to outside target hand (don’t lead him).

      if post is fronted, look to reverse the ball or bring the defender out to create space (margin for error) for the lob.

      post - be a baseball “catcher” - don’t stand up, sit on the defender’s leg.

Wing to high post:

      high post position is straight out in front of the basket even past the top circle.

      shoot for 30 minutes every practice - otherwise, over coached and under taught

      wear shorts at your hips - or at your ankles

      if high post cuts to the basket and doesn’t get the ball, come back out as soon as the defender is deep enough, create space with chest.

      practice pivoting - red light, green light around the gym - he hasn’t done the drill in 5 years, and his team hasn’t pivoted well.

      when you’re on offence, you own the defender.

      post - one leg in front of defender, sit on her, outside target hand.

High post to low post:

      low post defended from the front - wing passes to high post, low post spins inside - high post has to see this play before getting the ball

      high post gets ball, keeps it high at side of the jaw.

      if pass not there, sweep ball low to the other side to threaten the defender, attack the shoulder.

      duck in (“hammer” play) - ball-side post at elbow, weak-side low post, wing passes to high post, who catches the balls, “breaks the defender’s hands” with the sweep, low post ducks into the key showing outside target hand.

      passing - ideally step with one foot, one-hand bounce pass on that side.

      not the “Canadian stance” - passive (standing straight up, legs together).

High post to opposite wing:

      don’t reverse from ball-side elbow (too far) - sweep and dribble once or twice in that direction before passing to weak side

      low post - forward pivot on inside foot, two-hand overhead pass.

      wing to wing pass is the most telegraphed and intercepted pass - too soft, and need to move the defence (fake) first.

      give everything you have, don’t be afraid to fail.                  

Peter Campbell, Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks - Transition

      transition game is entertaining

      European big kids are better - allowed to play away from the basket.

      best advantage in basketball is 1 on 0 - any more than one attacker, they can screw it up.

      2 on 1 - score on 1 pass or less, ball handler goes to the basket until defender makes a commitment, then passes (dribble with inside hand in order to make the pass).

      3 on 2 - point head-mans the ball to either wing, score on 2 passes or less, wing takes ball down block-high in the corner if defended - opens up point position for return pass.

      3-man weave, lay-up, 2 on 1 coming back (don’t inbounds ball), shooter defends (if you screw it up going down, walk back).

      5-man weave, last 2 players to touch the ball defend coming back (then: 2 on 1 going away again, shooter defends).

      3 on 2, 2 on 1 coming back, then defender goes with 2 new players on the new 3 on 2.

      go fast, but not in a hurry.

5-man transition:

      down-court will have 1 post player on the T in the lane, 2 guards, 2 perimeter forwards.

      outlet position same side of the court as the rebounder; rebound, outlet, head-man the ball over the defence to the post on the T.

      start play - 5 players moving in a circle, shot goes up for rebound.

      coming back - rebound, outlet to guard, head-man to wing, to post.

      then - rebound, outlet, head-man to wing, skip pass to other wing.

      then - play against 4 defenders coming back, then 5 defenders going away.

      transition harder after a score, but can be effective.

      be an active listener - even when you don’t hear your name.

      drill - 5 players along baseline, 5 players along free-throw extended, coach passes to one baseline player, whose defender has to touch the baseline before joining the defence, coach also calls name of another defender who has to do the same - temporary 5 on 3; coming back, last 2 attackers to touch the ball must touch the wall before defending.

      post players - 10 toes to the target.

3 on 2 series:

      with 12 players: 2 teams, one on each sideline, 3 on 2 going one way, with 2 defenders waiting in the other half, as the first attacker (or the ball) crosses centre, a third defender comes in and touches the centre circle, on change of possession becomes 3 on 2 going the other way.

      with 11 players: “animal” - 1 player at each sideline, free-throw extended, both ends; 2 defenders in each half plus 3 attackers; 3 on 2 one way, whichever of the 5 players gets the ball after a shot goes 3 on 2 the other way with the two sideline players.

      with 9 players: 3 on 2, 1 sideline player at each end, the two defenders attack the other way with the sideline player.

Michele Belanger, U of T Varsity Blues - Defence

      one of her players wouldn’t start playing defence until she had scored.

      need quick feet

      if you can’t defend 1 on 1, you will need lots of help from your teammates

      contest all shots

      get back to the level of the ball - fast.

      help - all the time, from top side or back side

      vision - see the ball and your check, chin up

      jump to the ball on every pass

      pressure the ball without fouling - usually force sideline, chase and contain in the forecourt, use sidelines and half court as extra defenders; force attacker where there is the least amount of court; are your trying to bring them into a double team?

      allow no easy baskets

      communicate - talk, talk

      stop penetration into the key (“the heart”) or the low blocks

      keep your check in front of you

      box out - even men don’t do it (rely on their jumping and quickness)

      no second shots

      go for loose balls - we want trench players

      close out on shots - don’t leave your feet

      no easy passes in the paint (nobody wants to pass to low-post players anymore - very few good perimeter passers).

      don’t allow the ball to be reversed, keep it on one side

      don’t want ball in the centre of the court, no help there

      have to give something up

      teams now establishing mid posts - difficult to defend - play high or low side?

      sideline out of bounds - do not allow pass into baseline or post, give up pass high and away from basket (defender of the passer should be positioned inside).

      sprint back, know where the ball is (sprint 3 steps forward, then turn around and run backwards).

      limit the 2 on 1's against you - some coaches teach defensive transition

      you want other teams to shoot quickly


      1 on 1, dribble full court starting beside the defender, from far corner, then half court, then start face to face outside the 3-point line.

      “hockey” - 3 on 3 then 4 on 4, constant sprinting, new team every 45 seconds, coach plays ball in

      1 v 1 attack from the corner, (a) attacker can only go baseline (defender - push, slide); (b) attacker allowed to reverse after going baseline (not crossover); (c) attacker can go any way.

      3 players, defender under the basket passes to point, point to corner, defender closes out.

Dave Smart, Carleton University - Competitive Drills

      everything they do, they keep score, and always punishment for the losers that varies with the intensity they showed

      there can’t be a way to take short cuts just to win the drill

      they force everything weak hand

      doesn’t believe in rebounding drills: any offensive rebound - free possession for the rebounding team

      always want to dead front the post - if it doesn’t happen in practice, it’s an automatic foul on the defender.

      shoot 35 minutes of 3's per practice - lots of reps, uncontested

      pre-practice - lie on back, form shooting with one hand, at least 6 feet in the air, catch with the same hand, 100 reps

      always start practice with 5 on 0 transition.

      ‘shoot with their feet’

      shooting drill - 4 players, 3 balls, shoot, self-rebound, always pass to the same person, (a) catch and shoot; (b) pull-ups - shot fake, “C” with the ball, 1-dribble drive direct to basket (uses same pivot foot going left and right), shoot; (c) 3's - should make 40 out of 50 uncontested.

      shooting drill - in pairs, 2 balls, one rebounder, partner shoots 50 3's (make at least 40, have to win your pairing, can’t tie).

      kick-out shooting - 3 players with balls at one wing, 2 players without balls at the other wing, one player dribbles to the basket then kicks the ball out to the wing perimeter, closes out to contest the shot (shooter should move towards baseline or out to 45 degree angle to receive the pass). Then - wing player dribbles across FT line, passes to point player moving to weak-side wing, closes out.

      any discussion of the score - they run.

      using a screen - always face the ball.

      used 7 shooting drills all year.

      players don’t lose interest when they are keeping score (bump as an example)

      your best players won’t try if a drill isn’t competitive, and you want your best players to get better.

      defence - 65 minutes per practice.

      3 on 3 series with point, wing and low post - (a) wing downscreens post - wing defender stays in deny position, one hand on wing’s hip; if the post defender calls ‘gap’, takes hand off and makes room to go through, or if the post defender follows the post around the screen, will jump out to hedge the cutter.

      on a downscreen, force guards inside, posts outside.

      any contact, defence loses

      whoever fouls first wins

      we don’t push kids enough mentally

      everything they do is based on the individual

      if the defender of an attacker who still has a dribble yells ‘dead’, doesn’t need help defending; yells ‘help’ and ‘zone’ for help.

      after the downscreen, (b) post flares to the corner for pass from point, point sets ball screen

      if the screener can’t shoot, force the ball handler baseline into double team, ball kicked back out to screener

      will switch only if the two defenders are the same defensively; they don’t switch much, when they do, it’s two defenders side by side, take whichever attacker comes their way.

      hedging - defender of the screen jumps out to slow down the cutter, then jumps back.

      defending a cross screen - call ‘cross’, defender of the ball handler attacks the ball knowing that the attacking post players will be moving to the ball-side block and elbow, taking away space for the ball handler to drive the basket.

      on a pass from the wing to the top of the circle, the defence gives up the return pass back to the wing, defender of the wing sags to help prevent the pass into the low post

      the offence should want to swing the ball to the other side, not back to the same wing.

      do a drill until they get it right.

      defender of the attacker with the ball will ‘body up’ to the attacker before the ball is put on the floor (when the refs will then call the contact).

      coaches underestimate kids basketball sense - at first they will think and forget to move their feet, but then will get it.

      the more they can think, the more they can close on the gap on the more athletic kids.

Eric Johannsen

Barrhaven Blue Devils

June 4, 2003

© 2007-19 Eric Johannsen